Toyota Indy 300, Homestead-Miami 100 Postscript A Day of Firsts at Homestead-Miami Speedway INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, March 1, 2004 -- In his more than 35 years of Indy-style racing, Roger Penske had never seen a driver win his first race with his...
Toyota Indy 300, Homestead-Miami 100 Postscript
A Day of Firsts at Homestead-Miami Speedway
INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, March 1, 2004 -- In his more than 35 years of Indy-style racing, Roger Penske had never seen a driver win his first race with his organization.
Drivers such as Indianapolis 500 winners Mark Donohue, Al Unser, Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan, Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser Jr., Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran each failed to win in their first start.
Sam Hornish Jr. changed all that.
"It's just a great day to be able to come out here in my debut with Marlboro Team Penske and have a win," said Hornish, the two-time IRL IndyCar Series® champion, who won the Toyota Indy 300 on Feb. 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "Everybody just really welcomed me in, made me feel at home. I'm really excited to start off the year this way and looking forward to a lot of good things down the road."
Hornish passed his new teammate Helio Castroneves on the final lap of the 200-lap race to win his 12th career IndyCar Series race.
"The last five laps, I'm trying to get a run on him, and I couldn't get it timed," said Hornish, who only led six laps in the event. "I couldn't get it done. So this one was real unexpected. I thought that we'd have a good start, but I really didn't think it was going to be this good."
Hornish claimed victory in the IndyCar Series opener for the third time in four years. The previous two times he won the opener (2001 and 2002), Hornish won the IndyCar Series title. Scott Dixon repeated the feat in 2003 when he won the opener en route to the IndyCar Series title.
"I know there's no better way to start off the season than by winning the first race," Hornish said. "It gives you good feelings about the beginning of the year. It gives you a little bit of momentum. If we go out there and crash the next 15 races, it's not going to do us any good.
"The big thing is to remain focused and do our job just the way we've been doing it, things should be pretty well. We go to a lot of tracks that I like. I really like Phoenix and Motegi. I've only had one chance to race there and I had a great time there last year. And especially Indianapolis. We'll see how we get through those, then I'll give you a little more on how I feel about the rest of the championship."
Giebler scores first win in his first start: Before the Homestead-Miami 100, IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series newcomer Phil Gibler had never raced on an oval.
After the Feb. 29 race, Giebler can call himself an oval winner.
"It was an amazing weekend," the 23-year-old from Oxnard, Calif., said. "I had a lot of people helping me out, giving me bits of advice, Rick Mears, Memo Gidley, Alex Barron, Bryan Herta, right before I went out. Just little things that help out, just help the transition. It was fine during the weekend. A race is a race. Turning left all the time is just what you have to deal with."
Giebler overcame a stalled engine before the start of the race and chased down front-running Thiago Medeiros to claim the win.
He joins Mark Taylor and A.J. Foyt as winners of their first Menards Infiniti Pro Series starts in 2002 and 2003, respectively. Taylor and Foyt, now full-time drivers in the IndyCar Series, went on to win the Menards Infiniti Pro Series title.
"Running by yourself is completely different, and racing is a different animal," Giebler said. "But really, you just have to keep your nose clean the whole way and be smart and be patient really and let the race come to you. And that's what I did.
First race on Homestead's high banks a success: The reconfiguration did nothing to take away from the wheel-to-wheel excitement of the IndyCar Series.
Throughout the Toyota Indy 300, much of the field ran within a second of the lead and used all three lanes of the track's high-banked turns. The reconfigured track also drew rave reviews from the competitors.
"I think it was pretty good, especially towards the end. In fact, like I said, I wanted to keep the same tires," said Helio Castroneves, who finished second in the event. "The team keep telling me, 'No, no, no, we can't keep the same tire.' I said, 'No, no, no. The car is great.Don't change it.' But as soon as we change it, obviously, it was pretty much the same. Homestead did a very a good job in smoothing out all the things."
Record starts: Scott Sharp made his 75th consecutive IndyCar start--an IRL record. -- Arie Luyendyk Jr. made his record 20th start in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series and finished in the top 10 for a record 10th consecutive race.
The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season continues with the Copper World Indy 200 at 4 p.m. (EST) on March 21, at Phoenix International Raceway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC and the IMS Radio Network. The Menards Infiniti Pro Series races at the Phoenix 100 at 2:45 p.m. on March 20. The race will be broadcast on tape delay by ESPN2 on March 25.